Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Vancouver on Tuesday morning to announce details of a historic partnership with Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) on the Sen̓áḵw development project.

Trudeau was joined by Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw Council Chairperson Khelsilem as they announced that the federal government will be providing $1.4B towards creating over 3,000 homes in the Sen̓áḵw development, funding provided by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) through its low-interest loans initiative -- Rental Construction Financing Initiative (RCFI) -- to support rental housing.

The Sen̓áḵw development project will include a total of 6,000 homes, and today's announcement is a commitment from the Government of Canada to fund half of the project, delivered across two of the four phases. Construction has already begun, and residents are expected to be able to move in as early as 2025.

The Sen̓áḵw Development Project

Announced in 2019, the Sen̓áḵw development will consist of over 4M sq. ft of residential space spread across 11 buildings on a total of 10.4 acres of land in downtown Vancouver. The tallest building is expected to be 58 storeys, and the entire development will feature vibrant Coast Salish architecture with a strong emphasis on nature.

The site will be open to the public as well as residents, and include multiple green spaces, plazas, and parks. The 11 buildings will primarily consist of rental units, including affordable units that Vancouver is in desperate need of.

The development is also noteworthy for its goal of becoming Canada's largest net-zero development. Sen̓áḵw will utilize an "innovative blackwater-powered heating and cooling system", and "highlights the rich, natural elements of land and sea integral to Indigenous culture, fusing the social, cultural, environmental, and economic drivers of sustainability", according to Revery Architecture, a collaborator on the project.

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Sen̓áḵw -- which means “the place inside the head of False Creek” -- will be owned and operated by Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw in a 50-50 partnership with Westbank, and will exist on land that was a hub of trade, commerce, and culture before the Government of British Columbia forced the surrender of the land in 1913 and residents were removed from their homes in Senákw.

This project is the largest loan provided by the CMHC in Canadian history, as well as the largest economic partnership between the federal government and a First Nation. The commitment announced by the Government of Canada today is in part a continuation of the government's commitment to reconciliation. "We will continue to work together to advance meaningful reconciliation, including economic reconciliation, and ensure everyone has a safe place to call home", the government said in a press release. At the press conference in Vancouver, Prime Minister Trudeau also called the partnership "reconciliation, in action."

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In addition, the commitment from the federal government also seeks to alleviate Vancouver's housing and affordability problems. On top of being notoriously difficult to afford, Vancouver also has a severe supply shortage of rental units, a problem the City of Vancouver has been eagerly trying to fix.

“Everyone should have a safe place to call home", Prime Minister Trudeau, who is in Vancouver to attend a three-day cabinet retreat on affordability, said on Tuesday. "Today’s announcement not only builds more much-needed homes for Vancouverites, it supports the Squamish Nation’s vision for their traditional lands and their path to continued economic independence and self-determination."

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